The 11th Circuit recently released a new decision denying a FMLA leave claim. I only occasionally write about FMLA issues. However, these issues can arise in many of our Alabama workers’ compensation claims. In many larger companies covered by FMLA, injured workers are dealing with both systems at the same time. FMLA issues can also arise, from time-to-time, in some of our other personal injury claims where an employee needs leave to deal with a serious health issue. I’ve also represented clients in FMLA cases in our Federal Court system. So, I stay up-to-date on new case decisions under the FMLA.
Back to the recent 11th Circuit decision. In the recent case of Walker v. United Parcel Services (UPS), the 11th Circuit affirmed a lower court decision against a worker who had pursued FMLA interference and retaliation claims. Basically, the decision comes down to this — The worker failed to support his claim with any documentation. By that I mean, the worker apparently failed to provide any real documentation at all.
Keep in mind, the rules are pretty favorable for a worker needing leave. Once an employee gives notice that potentially qualifying leave is needed, the employer must determine whether the absence actually qualifies for FMLA leave. The worker does not need any special knowledge of FMLA. He just needs to let his employer know he needs time. So, it’s a pretty loose standard with much of the burden on the employer. However, an employer may require the employee to support the leave with a certification from his health care provider. That was the issue in this case.
In this recent decision, the worker completely neglected to provide any medical certification. Really, he neglected to provide any information. Did he even have a serious health condition qualifying for leave? When was the onset? What was his illness? Did he even medically need leave? The company had no way of determining any of these issues because the employee failed to provide any real documentation.
Where FMLA applies, it provides a valuable benefit to the worker. If the worker in this case had cooperated, at all, leave would have been required.
You can find a copy of the 11th Circuit case HERE. I also saw a short article in a Human Resources journal HERE about the case. In the article, I found the author’s quote from UPS pretty humorous. The UPS Director of Media Relations exclaimed the company’s core value is that its people should be respected and protected.
It reminds of a work comp case I had against the company years ago. My client was a driver. He pulled into a UPS facility for fuel. While waiting, another UPS employee jumped on him without warning. My client suffered a pretty bad shoulder tear. The company should have immediately provided workers’ compensation benefits for the injured shoulder. Did the company protect that innocently injured worker?
Instead of providing work comp benefits, the company denied the claim on the grounds of horseplay. The company denied the claim even though its own internal investigation revealed my client was the innocent victim. We won work comp benefits for my client but it took a fight in court here in Huntsville. A fight that should never have been required! I’m not sure what the company’s PR person means by “respect” and “protect” in his quote. I suspect my client with the shoulder injury might feel differently!
From our office in Huntsville, our attorneys help people across Alabama with serious personal injury claims. If you have questions about a personal injury or accident in Alabama, let us know. We are happy to discuss your questions.